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Cold Fronts

When Malkie met Ruchie’s eyes, she felt like she was peering into a chest of warm memories — they were all there. Ruchie seemed to genuinely still care about her and their friendship. But then why wasn’t she making time for them to spend together?

Thursday, February 02, 2017

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PHOTO: SHUTTERSTOCK

B lustery winds swept through the neighborhood, showering snowflakes from rooftops and trees, and swaying skeletal branches back and forth. Huddling deep inside her down coat, Malkie rushed home, wincing each time the cold air stung her cheeks.

“Hi, Ima!” she called, stamping her feet on the mat before making a beeline for the kitchen.

“Hi, Malkie,” Ima greeted her warmly, turning around from her pots on the stove. “You’re home early. How was your day?”

“Great, baruch Hashem,” Malkie said, fixing herself a mug of hot chocolate. “Mrs. Haber’s class was canceled because her car was iced in; she couldn’t get out of her driveway. It’s our most boring class, so we felt really sorry for her. Especially since we got out early.”

“I’m sure,” Ima commented drily, arching an eyebrow.

“Can you believe my birthday is next week already?” Malkie wondered aloud. “And 14 sounds much older than 13, doesn’t it?” Sipping from her mug, Malkie enjoyed the soothing warmth of her drink.

“It certainly does,” Ima agreed. “Do you have your plans set with Ruchie?”

Malkie’s eyes widened.

“Omigoodness, I really have to call her. Thanks for reminding me!”

Ima smiled watching Malkie pick up the phone, cradling it between her ear and shoulder as she walked down the hall to her room, mug in hand. She was happy that Malkie had such a close friend. The girls had been best friends since kindergarten, and had a time-honored tradition of celebrating their birthdays together.

“Hi, Ruch,” Malkie began. “Do you know what next week is?”

“Don’t tell me. Is it really that time already?”

“It sure is,” Malkie confirmed. “How about if we do pottery painting this year? It’s not far, and my mother could for sure take us one way.”

“Maybe,” Ruchie hemmed and hawed. “I’ll let you know. Malkie, moving is awful! It’s taking all my time to put boxes together, pack up all my stuff, and label them. And then, when I finally finish my room — if I ever finish — my mother needs help with the rest of the house.” She sighed pitifully.

“When is your moving day again?”

“In two weeks,” Ruchie said. “And after that, I hope to never meet another cardboard box….”

“Wow,” Malkie sympathized. “Sounds rough. Well, happy packing. I’m going to hit the books for that geography test we’re having tomorrow. Talk to you later, okay?”

Malkie couldn’t see Ruchie’s eyes roll when she hung up, nor could she hear the even louder sigh that came from Ruchie’s lips. But if she had seen her friend at that moment, she would have noticed a large tear rolling down her cheek, followed quickly by another.

Leaving her childhood home was painful for Ruchie. She felt like she was packing her whole life into boxes. And the decisions — what to take and what to throw out? So many things weren’t necessary to keep, but carried sentimental value. And since they were moving into a smaller place, she had to downsize; there was no choice. But the reason behind the big move was the root of her stress.

Ever since her father lost his job, their family had been struggling to stay afloat. All of the things they were used to doing had come to an abrupt halt, like a car happily puttering along the road until it was forced to slam on its brakes, grinding to a sudden, short stop. First they stopped eating out. Then any type of outing with a price tag (vacations were not even in the picture) became obsolete. Even new clothing was banned. “Come on, you can manage with that outfit for one more season,” her mother would say, while Ruchie’s heart was breaking, knowing she’d be the only one without a new dress for School Shabbos. If all that wasn’t bad enough, the sharpest ax dropped a few months later when the move was announced, and Ruchie felt like her entire world was caving in.

“We’re going to have to move out of our house into a smaller place?” she had echoed her mother’s pronouncement, her mouth open in shock. “But how— Why? When?!”

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